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February 7, 2012

Hood: Curious choice for compliance head



I don't know Chris Rogers.

So, I can't truthfully attest to his personal character, integrity, work ethic or professionalism.

Still, his hiring Tuesday as the new Associate Athletics Director for Compliance by South Carolina is curious at best, and likely will be greeted with a fair amount of skepticism and a few raised eyebrows.

Not because of who Rogers is, mind you, but because of where he came from - Ohio State.

If you've been awake, you know the last 12 months have been a nightmare for the loved or loathed (depending on your perspective) Buckeyes football program. Last spring, former football coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign in disgrace amid a cash-for-tattoos scandal at the school involving quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players.

The investigation revealed Ohio State duped the NCAA into allowing five otherwise ineligible players, including Pryor,to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. Television, of course, played an integral role as well in the deception, but most of the blame falls on Ohio State.

Ohio State was able to sidestep serious sanctions (it will serve a one-year bowl ban in 2012 and lose a few scholarships, among other mildly severe penalties) from the NCAA because they were able to successfully pin most of the blame for the violations on Tressel, labeling him a :"rogue coach."

(Note: Tressel was recently named the University of Akron's new vice president of strategic engagement, a position that will pay him $200,000 per year, proving yet again that crime does pay).

However, many people believe a conspiracy of silence extending as far as school president G. Gordon Gee existed within the Ohio State community. Clearly, winning trumped all in Columbus, especially when it came to the school's mind-numbing obsession about beating the SEC in football.

Whether or not this perceived conspiracy reached into the Ohio State compliance office is unknown. Certainly, no amount of evidence has been presented proving it did.

Beau Bishop, a Columbus TV reporter, told 107.5 FM The Game late Tuesday that the Ohio State compliance department essentially saved the school from harsher penalties, awarding them an A-minus for their work on the case.

"What you had here was a football coach who failed to report information to anybody," Bishop said. "Compliance is based on information, and if they don't get the information it's hard for them to act on it. The job Ohio State compliance did is reflected on the way the NCAA treated Ohio State. Most people outside the state of Ohio would characterize the way the NCAA hit Ohio State was pretty lenient.

"Most of the credit for that has been given to Ohio State's compliance. They were the ones responsible for that. The fact they're looking at the loss of a few scholarships over a few years and one-year bowl ban considering everything that happened here is a credit to the compliance staff. The Ohio State staff worked well with the NCAA."

Bishop's words obviously offer a USC fan comfort with the hire. Rogers appears to know what he is doing when it comes to dealing directly with the NCAA.

Even though the Ohio State might have done a magnificent job representing the school in front of the NCAA, South Carolina has its own problems with the organization governing collegiate athletics. School officials, including Rogers, are scheduled to appear in front of the Infractions Committee on Feb. 17 in Los Angeles concerning the Notice of Allegations involving The Whitney Hotel and the Student-Athlete Mentoring (SAM) Foundation.

Sure, Rogers may have done a tremendous job at Ohio State, but the concept of guilt by association remains prevalent in our culture.

According to the staff directory posted on Ohio State's athletics website, Rogers was second or third in command within the compliance office. Most importantly, he was the "primary compliance contact" (USC's phrase) for the Ohio State football program.

At this point in time, should USC hire someone from a school coming off one of the most publicized infraction cases in recent memory in which it was established the head football coach blatantly lied to the NCAA?

Reading between the lines, it appears one of the main reasons Rogers has been hired by USC is to help steer the Gamecocks through the hurricane of the ongoing NCAA infractions process. Beyond that? Who knows.

These words by Eric Hyman in the press release announcing Rogers' hire offer a clue for a reason behind the move: "(Rogers) certainly understands the NCAA's expectations for a top-level compliance operation. Having earned both a law and masters degree, he has the skills and acumen to ensure a successful compliance operation ... "

Unfortunately, when you think about complying with NCAA rules, Ohio State isn't the first school that comes to mind.

He did a good job neutralizing the NCAA as far as Ohio State is concerned when trouble arose. How will he perform his job in keeping USC out of trouble in the first place?

His predecessor did a less-than-stellar job in that regard since the USC compliance office was targeted by the NCAA as the source of some of the problems that cropped up with the Whitney and SAM Foundation.

There is always a connection when it comes to these type of jobs, and Rogers' chances of landing the position may have been boosted by his friendship with Judy Van Horn, USC Senior Associate Athletics Director and a former high-ranking athletic department official at Michigan.

In the same press release, Van Horn described Rogers as "highly recommended" and "well respected throughout the Big Ten" and was chosen following a "national search and doing an extensive review of the candidates."

Surely, the quotes from Hyman and Van Horn in the release anticipate concerns from Gamecock Nation regarding the timing of the hire and based on where he is coming from.

In the end, maybe Hyman and Van Horn are correct and Rogers was the best candidate for the job because of his experience dealing with the NCAA at Ohio State.

Skeptics, though, will always be lurking.

Just because SIGNING DAY is over doesn't mean our coverage of the
big day stops. We have more analysis of USC's 2012 signing class, plus
all of our normal content on GamecockCentral.com. Don't miss a thing
with our 7-day FREE TRIAL.

D. McCallum


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